The Stranger Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Guillermo Amoedo
2014, 93 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on October 6th, 2015
Cristóbal Tapia Montt as The Stranger
Nicolás Durán as Peter
Luis Gnecco as Lt. De Luca
Ariel Levy as Caleb
Alessandra Guerzoni as Monica
Lorenza Izzo as Ana
Aaron Burns as Officer Harris
Peter is a fairly typical teenage boy, living at his mother’s house, doing drugs and tagging various structures and overpasses around town with his graffiti art. He witnesses a crime where Caleb, a local thug, along with his gang of bullies, is beating up a defenseless stranger in the park. The boy flags down a cop to help but when he doubles back to the scene, is surprised to find the situation significantly worse, as the victim is being placed in the back of the police car for disposal. Peter follows the action to a shallow grave where he discovers not only is the stranger still alive, but he recognizes the man. The boy takes the wounded guy home in hopes that his mother, a nurse, can save his life. The stranger reacts angrily when medical assistance is offered and Peter’s mom is not inclined to offer further help or shelter.
When Caleb and his gang learn of the boy’s interference, they track him down and threaten further violence. This time it is the stranger’s turn to intervene, and Caleb is left critically injured. This action sets off an unexpectedly brutal series of events involving the crooked cop seeking his own private justice. What no one seems to understand, however, is that this stranger is not your typical drifter, and he has his own methods of retribution. The stranger knows what damage he is capable of wreaking when pushed into a corner and struggles to keep his thirst for revenge under control. The events that follow are made all the more tragic in that many result from good intentions gone awry, due largely in part to people meddling with things they do not understand. Other dark consequences of this story are a direct backlash against local residents deliberately performing acts of cruelty upon one another.
Writer/ director Guillermo Amoedo delivers a damning indictment on the darker side of human nature with The Stranger. The Chilean filmmaker brings a fresh eye to a popular story and goes out of his way to create and maintain a mystique that I will not spoil here. Suffice it to say, this picture offers a rarely seen spin on a classic tale, and although not the first to take this approach, Amoedo tells a quiet yet powerful story. The film is primarily a character drama with some elements of horror mixed in, more as a metaphor than anything else. This well-realized look at what people are capable of when hurting others condemns modern society and questions the definition of the term “monster”. Cinematographer Chechu Graf creates a beautiful yet muted landscape that is rich with shadows and is perfectly complemented by Manuel Riveiro’s haunting score.
Cristóbal Tapia Montt delivers a restrained performance as a self-loathing fatalist in the titular role. The character’s moral code is strong, but is frequently challenged when pushed to act, as he is a pacifist caught in a volatile situation. Montt has a haunted, ragged appearance that immediately conveys the price of the stranger’s endless journey. Nicolás Durán makes a strong debut as Peter and is at his best when paired with Montt. The young protagonist holds his own in even the most intense scenes opposite Luis Gnecco as the corrupt Lieutenant De Luca. This acting trio do all of the heavy lifting but are matched with an equally capable supporting cast. Alessandra Guerzoni is caught in the middle of a very bad situation as Peter’s mother, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film. Ariel Levy is menacing as Caleb, the energetic sociopath. Levy comes pretty close to chewing all of the scenery, but manages to keep the character in line with his fellow cast members.
What I enjoyed most about this film is the writing, not because it was particularly clever or witty, but Amoedo tells his story at a deliberate pace. The stranger’s past is revealed over a series of strategically placed flashbacks, but genre fans will know the score pretty quickly. The story is not so much about the stranger as it is about his interaction with others and the consequences of his decisions. The main character is capable of terrible things, but would prefer to help the weak while in a position to do so. The Stranger is a haunting film that is more interested in tone over terror and wraps itself in a solemn atmosphere that viewers will find difficult to shake. I can easily recommend this feature to audiences looking for a slow-burn and am curious to see what the filmmaker delivers next.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, The Stranger receives a solid transfer filled with rich blacks and deliberately muted colors. Flesh tones appear natural throughout and there is plenty of small object detail.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is a surprisingly subtle yet effective mix that makes nice use of the rear speakers, particularly during the numerous physical confrontations. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion. The score is the primary beneficiary here as it fills the room in a mix that utilizes each speaker. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is also offered but stick with the 5.1, for it really is impressive.
English and Spanish subtitles are included for anyone in need.
The Fourth Horseman (11 minutes) is a short film that tells the backstory of Ana and the Stranger, thus setting up his journey. It is not necessary to watch this before the main attraction, but it is interesting to see since it appears to be an investment trailer used to raise funds for the long-form piece. The primary visual effect plays better in the short than as presented in the feature version.
Welcome to Chilewood (6 minutes) is a satirical profile of Chilean filmmaker Nicholas Lopez (Aftershock), Eli Roth’s production partner in bringing Hollywood to Chile. The tone is silly and a bit annoying and does not focus at all on The Stranger.
A Chilean trailer and a US trailer offer different approaches to the marketing, but both are loaded with spoilers and should not be watched before checking out the movie.
A photo gallery (3 minutes) plays as a slideshow set to the film’s haunting score.